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Energy-related CO2 emissions to reach highest level in 2021: IEA

A worker cuts steel pipes near a coal-fired power plant in Zhangjiakou, China, November 12, 2021.

Greg Baker | AFP | Getty Images

Energy-related carbon emissions rose to their highest levels in history last year as the economy recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, relying heavily on coal, according to the International Energy Agency.

The IEA found that global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 6% in 2021 to a record high of 36.3 billion metric tons. In an analysis released Tuesday, the Paris-based organization identified coal use as the main driver of growth.

“The recovery in energy demand in 2021 was exacerbated by adverse weather and energy market conditions, in particular natural gas price hikes, which led to the burning of more coal, despite the largest increase in renewable energy production on record,” it says. in a message from the IEA.

The energy agency said its estimate is based on analyzes of individual fuels and regions. Breaking down its findings, the company said coal was responsible for more than 40% of the total increase in global CO2 emissions last year, reaching a record 15.3 billion metric tons.

“CO2 emissions from natural gas rose well above 2019 levels to 7.5 billion tons,” the IEA said, adding that CO2 emissions from oil were 10.7 billion metric tons. Emissions from oil were “well below pre-pandemic levels” due to “a limited recovery in global transport activity in 2021, mainly in the aviation sector.”

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China has played a significant role in increasing emissions, according to the IEA. The recovery of global CO2 emissions above pre-pandemic levels was largely driven by China, where they increased by 750 million tonnes between 2019 and 2021.

“In 2021 alone, China’s CO2 emissions exceeded 11.9 billion tons, accounting for 33% of the global total,” the report said.

While coal use has skyrocketed, the IEA also noted that renewables and nuclear power were able to provide a larger share of electricity generation than fossil fuels in 2021. Renewable energy production exceeded 8,000 terawatt-hours last year, which the IEA described as “fully generated.” time is high.”

Although coal remains an important source of electricity, it has a significant impact on the environment.

The US Energy Information Administration lists a number of emissions from coal combustion. These include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. Elsewhere, Greenpeace called coal “the dirtiest and most polluting way to produce energy.”

The IEA said it was now clear that the economic recovery from Covid-19 was not sustainable. “Now the world must ensure that the global emissions recovery in 2021 is a one-off and that the accelerated energy transition contributes to global energy security and lower energy prices for consumers,” the statement said.

The IEA’s findings point to a Herculean challenge to meeting the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement and the more recent Glasgow Climate Treaty. While major economies are trying to ramp up renewable energy capacity, the world is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

In the past few weeks, this sobering reality has changed dramatically following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, not least because last year Russia was the EU’s largest supplier of petroleum oils and natural gas. according to Eurostat.

On Tuesday, the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, released what it called “an outline of a plan to make Europe independent of Russian fossil fuels well before” the end of the decade.

“We must become independent of Russian oil, coal and gas,” said Commission Chair Ursula von der Leyen. “We just can’t rely on a supplier that clearly threatens us.”

The Commission’s announcement came after the IEA said the EU should not enter into any new gas supply contracts with Russia to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas.


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